The last 48 hours has had Papua New Guinean forums have been buzzing with excitement.
Before James Marape, announced his resignation, very few people expected a crack in the PNC ranks that high up.
Marape said he was leaving because Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, had lost trust him and that the PM’s associates contributed to it.
Until Thursday this week, James Marape was one of the top men in the Prime Minister’s inner circle. As Finance Minister, he was a major player in the formulation of six national budgets and oversaw various finance related policies by the O’Neill-Abel Government.
While on the surface things appeared smooth, there was a turbulent undercurrent largely kept under wraps until this week. His exit has also given a glimpse into the inner workings of PNG politics. The open secret of cultural ties and the non-elected political influencers that remain hidden from public eye.
Marape revealed publicly what many other Members of Parliament had previously expressed – that the faceless political hangers-on had a hand in affecting and influencing political decisions in the country.
Marape said he had lost trust of the Prime Minister and part of it was because ‘associates’ of the government contributed to that distrust.
“The decision is not easy to make and despite the cultural and personal ties, the level of trust between the Prime Minister and myself is at the lowest after his office and associates continue to send negative signals on the lack of trust on me,” Marape said.
With talk of a vote of no confidence, the political ‘glass man’ peering into the murky crystal balls of Waigani attempting to interpret James Marape’s resignation are coming up with different results. Marape’s resignation is certainly a blow, but how damaging is it?
Behind the scenes, insiders say the numbers on the fringes of the coalition appear fluid while the core remains largely intact.
The Prime Minister was in New Ireland on Thursday when James Marape announced his resignation in Port Moresby. Attempts to get a response from the PM were delayed by a few hours. A close aid, sent a text message saying the PM would release a statement after meeting with other members present at the meeting in New Ireland.
Just before 6pm, his office send a short statement in which the PM acknowledged Marape’s resignation.
“I have not heard from the Minister today, as a matter of protocol, I expect that he will be in contact soon to convey his intentions.”
Like many political statements, Marape’s has to be also read in between the lines. He said his disagreements with the PM stem from various, what he called, work related matter including concerns over the amount of participation Papua New Guineans had in the resource sector.
He went on further to echo what other ministers like Planning Minister Richard Maru, has repeatedly raised previously – that agreements and legislations governing the resource sector are not configured to allow the people and the country to generate wealth.
Marape’s resignation comes days after the signing of the Papua LNG project – a deal that fanned more dissatisfaction when the media reported that landowners would get just 2 percent of the USD13 billion project. Weather that contributed directly to his resignation is a question Marape is yet to answer himself.
Like most political situations involving numbers on the floor of parliament, it’s best to read between the lines, study the undercurrent, and listen to what politicians aren’t saying.